Publications by authors named "Gerhard Walzl"

199 Publications

Serum and cerebrospinal fluid host proteins indicate stroke in children with tuberculous meningitis.

PLoS One 2021 30;16(4):e0250944. Epub 2021 Apr 30.

Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Introduction: Stroke is a common complication in children with tuberculous meningitis (TBM). Host proteins may give us insight into the mechanisms of stroke in TBM and serve as biomarkers for detection of stroke, however, they have not been widely explored. In this study, we compared the concentrations of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum proteins between children who had TBM-related stroke and children with TBM without stroke.

Methods: We collected CSF and serum from 47 children consecutively admitted to the Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa between November 2016, and November 2017, on suspicion of having TBM. A multiplex platform was used to measure the concentrations of 69 host proteins in CSF and serum from all study participants.

Results: After classification of study participants, 23 (48.9%) out of the 47 study participants were diagnosed with TBM, of which 14 (60.9%) demonstrated radiological arterial ischemic infarction. The levels of lipocalin-2, sRAGE, IP-10/ CXCL10, sVCAM-1, MMP-1, and PDGF-AA in CSF samples and the levels of D-dimer, ADAMTS13, SAA, ferritin, MCP-1/ CCL2, GDF-15 and IL-13 in serum samples were statistically different between children who had TBM-related stroke and children with TBM without stroke. After correcting for multiple testing, only the levels of sVCAM-1, MMP-1, sRAGE, and IP-10/ CXCL10 in CSF were statistically different between the two groups. CSF and serum protein biosignatures indicated stroke in children diagnosed with TBM with up to 100% sensitivity and 88.9% specificity.

Conclusion: Serum and CSF proteins may serve as biomarkers for identifying individuals with stroke amongst children diagnosed with TBM at admission and may guide us to understand the biology of stroke in TBM. This was a pilot study, and thus further investigations in larger studies are needed.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250944PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8087017PMC
April 2021

Mycobacterium tuberculosis-stimulated whole blood culture to detect host biosignatures for tuberculosis treatment response.

Tuberculosis (Edinb) 2021 Apr 10;128:102082. Epub 2021 Apr 10.

DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Host markers to monitor the response to tuberculosis (TB) therapy hold some promise. We evaluated the changes in concentration of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb)-induced soluble biomarkers during early treatment for predicting short- and long-term treatment outcomes. Whole blood samples from 30 cured and 12 relapsed TB patients from diagnosis, week 1, 2, and 4 of treatment were cultured in the presence of live M.tb for seven days and patients followed up for 24 weeks after the end of treatment. 57 markers were measured in unstimulated and antigen-stimulated culture supernatants using Luminex assays. Top performing multi-variable models at diagnosis using unstimulated values predicted outcome at 24 months after treatment completion with a sensitivity of 75.0% (95% CI, 42.8-94.5%) and specificity of 72.4% (95% CI, 52.8-87.3%) in leave-one-out cross validation. Month two treatment responder classification was correctly predicted with a sensitivity of 79.2% (95% CI, 57.8-92.9%) and specificity of 92.3% (95% CI, 64.0-99.8%). This study provides evidence of the early M.tb-specific treatment response in TB patients but shows that the observed unstimulated marker models are not outperformed by stimulated marker models. Performance of unstimulated predictive host marker signatures is promising and requires validation in larger studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tube.2021.102082DOI Listing
April 2021

Targeting of myeloid-derived suppressor cells by all-trans retinoic acid as host-directed therapy for human tuberculosis.

Cell Immunol 2021 Jun 8;364:104359. Epub 2021 Apr 8.

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Conventional anti-tuberculosis (TB) therapies comprise lengthy antibiotic treatment regimens, exacerbated by multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant mycobacterial strains. We assessed the ability of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), as repurposed compound serving as host-directed therapy (HDT), to counteract the suppressive effects of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) obtained from active TB cases (untreated or during week one of treatment) on T-cell responsiveness. We show for the first time that MDSCs suppress non-specific T-cell activation and production of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-13 and GM-CSF via contact-dependent mechanisms. ATRA treatment decreases MDSC frequency, but fails to mature MDSCs to non-suppressive, terminally differentiated myeloid cells and does not restore T-cell function or cytokine production in the presence of MDSCs. The impact of ATRA treatment on improved immunity, using the concentration tested here, is likely to be minimal, but further identification and development of MDSC-targeting TB host-directed therapies are warranted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cellimm.2021.104359DOI Listing
June 2021

Validation of a host blood transcriptomic biomarker for pulmonary tuberculosis in people living with HIV: a prospective diagnostic and prognostic accuracy study.

Lancet Glob Health 2021 Apr 13. Epub 2021 Apr 13.

South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: A rapid, blood-based triage test that allows targeted investigation for tuberculosis at the point of care could shorten the time to tuberculosis treatment and reduce mortality. We aimed to test the performance of a host blood transcriptomic signature (RISK11) in diagnosing tuberculosis and predicting progression to active pulmonary disease (prognosis) in people with HIV in a community setting.

Methods: In this prospective diagnostic and prognostic accuracy study, adults (aged 18-59 years) with HIV were recruited from five communities in South Africa. Individuals with a history of tuberculosis or household exposure to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis within the past 3 years, comorbid risk factors for tuberculosis, or any condition that would interfere with the study were excluded. RISK11 status was assessed at baseline by real-time PCR; participants and study staff were masked to the result. Participants underwent active surveillance for microbiologically confirmed tuberculosis by providing spontaneously expectorated sputum samples at baseline, if symptomatic during 15 months of follow-up, and at 15 months (the end of the study). The coprimary outcomes were the prevalence and cumulative incidence of tuberculosis disease confirmed by a positive Xpert MTB/RIF, Xpert Ultra, or Mycobacteria Growth Indicator Tube culture, or a combination of such, on at least two separate sputum samples collected within any 30-day period.

Findings: Between March 22, 2017, and May 15, 2018, 963 participants were assessed for eligibility and 861 were enrolled. Among 820 participants with valid RISK11 results, eight (1%) had prevalent tuberculosis at baseline: seven (2·5%; 95% CI 1·2-5·0) of 285 RISK11-positive participants and one (0·2%; 0·0-1·1) of 535 RISK11-negative participants. The relative risk (RR) of prevalent tuberculosis was 13·1 times (95% CI 2·1-81·6) greater in RISK11-positive participants than in RISK11-negative participants. RISK11 had a diagnostic area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 88·2% (95% CI 77·6-96·7), and a sensitivity of 87·5% (58·3-100·0) and specificity of 65·8% (62·5-69·0) at a predefined score threshold (60%). Of those with RISK11 results, eight had primary endpoint incident tuberculosis during 15 months of follow-up. Tuberculosis incidence was 2·5 per 100 person-years (95% CI 0·7-4·4) in the RISK11-positive group and 0·2 per 100 person-years (0·0-0·5) in the RISK11-negative group. The probability of primary endpoint incident tuberculosis was greater in the RISK11-positive group than in the RISK11-negative group (cumulative incidence ratio 16·0 [95% CI 2·0-129·5]). RISK11 had a prognostic AUC of 80·0% (95% CI 70·6-86·9), and a sensitivity of 88·6% (43·5-98·7) and a specificity of 68·9% (65·3-72·3) for incident tuberculosis at the 60% threshold.

Interpretation: RISK11 identified prevalent tuberculosis and predicted risk of progression to incident tuberculosis within 15 months in ambulant people living with HIV. RISK11's performance approached, but did not meet, WHO's target product profile benchmarks for screening and prognostic tests for tuberculosis.

Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the South African Medical Research Council.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00045-0DOI Listing
April 2021

A Plasma 5-Marker Host Biosignature Identifies Tuberculosis in High and Low Endemic Countries.

Front Immunol 2021 24;12:608846. Epub 2021 Feb 24.

Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Several host inflammatory markers have been proposed as biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment response in Tuberculosis (TB), but few studies compare their utility in different demographic, ethnic, and TB endemic settings. Fifty-four host biomarkers were evaluated in plasma samples obtained from presumed TB cases recruited at the Oslo University Hospital in Norway, and a health center in Cape Town, South Africa. Based on clinical and laboratory assessments, participants were classified as having TB or other respiratory diseases (ORD). The concentrations of biomarkers were analyzed using the Luminex multiplex platform. Out of 185 study participants from both study sites, 107 (58%) had TB, and 78 (42%) ORD. Multiple host markers showed diagnostic potential in both the Norwegian and South African cohorts, with I-309 as the most accurate single marker irrespective of geographical setting. Although study site-specific biosignatures had high accuracy for TB, a site-independent 5-marker biosignature (G-CSF, C3b/iC3b, procalcitonin, IP-10, PDGF-BB) was identified diagnosing TB with a sensitivity of 72.7% (95% CI, 49.8-82.3) and specificity of 90.5% (95% CI, 69.6-98.8) irrespective of geographical site. A 5-marker host plasma biosignature has diagnostic potential for TB disease irrespective of TB setting and should be further explored in larger cohorts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.608846DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7958880PMC
February 2021

Inflammatory Determinants of Differential Tuberculosis Risk in Pre-Adolescent Children and Young Adults.

Front Immunol 2021 25;12:639965. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), Department of Pathology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and Division of Immunology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

The risk of progression from ( infection to active tuberculosis (TB) disease varies markedly with age. TB disease is significantly less likely in pre-adolescent children above 4 years of age than in very young children or post-pubescent adolescents and young adults. We hypothesized that pro-inflammatory responses to in pre-adolescent children are either less pronounced or more regulated, than in young adults. Inflammatory and antimicrobial mediators, measured by microfluidic RT-qPCR and protein bead arrays, or by analyzing published microarray data from TB patients and controls, were compared in pre-adolescent children and adults. Multivariate analysis revealed that -uninfected 8-year-old children had lower levels of myeloid-associated pro-inflammatory mediators than uninfected 18-year-old young adults. Relative to uninfected children, those with -infection had higher levels of similar myeloid inflammatory responses. These inflammatory mediators were also expressed after stimulation of whole blood from uninfected children with live . Our findings suggest that myeloid inflammation is intrinsically lower in pre-pubescent children than in young adults. The lower or more regulated pro-inflammatory responses may play a role in the lower risk of TB disease in this age group.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.639965DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7947716PMC
February 2021

Evaluation of Host Serum Protein Biomarkers of Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa.

Front Immunol 2021 25;12:639174. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

Department of Infectious Disease, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.

Accurate and affordable point-of-care diagnostics for tuberculosis (TB) are needed. Host serum protein signatures have been derived for use in primary care settings, however validation of these in secondary care settings is lacking. We evaluated serum protein biomarkers discovered in primary care cohorts from Africa reapplied to patients from secondary care. In this nested case-control study, concentrations of 22 proteins were quantified in sera from 292 patients from Malawi and South Africa who presented predominantly to secondary care. Recruitment was based upon intention of local clinicians to test for TB. The case definition for TB was culture positivity for ; and for other diseases (OD) a confirmed alternative diagnosis. Equal numbers of TB and OD patients were selected. Within each group, there were equal numbers with and without HIV and from each site. Patients were split into training and test sets for biosignature discovery. A nine-protein signature to distinguish TB from OD was discovered comprising fibrinogen, alpha-2-macroglobulin, CRP, MMP-9, transthyretin, complement factor H, IFN-gamma, IP-10, and TNF-alpha. This signature had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve in the training set of 90% (95% CI 86-95%), and, after adjusting the cut-off for increased sensitivity, a sensitivity and specificity in the test set of 92% (95% CI 80-98%) and 71% (95% CI 56-84%), respectively. The best single biomarker was complement factor H [area under the receiver operating characteristic curve 70% (95% CI 64-76%)]. Biosignatures consisting of host serum proteins may function as point-of-care screening tests for TB in African hospitals. Complement factor H is identified as a new biomarker for such signatures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.639174DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7947659PMC
February 2021

Validation and Optimization of Host Immunological Bio-Signatures for a Point-of-Care Test for TB Disease.

Front Immunol 2021 26;12:607827. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

Department of Science and Innovation - National Research Foundation (DSI-NRF) Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

The development of a non-sputum-based, point-of-care diagnostic test for tuberculosis (TB) is a priority in the global effort to combat this disease, particularly in resource-constrained settings. Previous studies have identified host biomarker signatures which showed potential, but there is a need to validate and refine these for development as a test. We recruited 1,403 adults presenting with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary TB at primary healthcare clinics in six countries from West, East and Southern Africa. Of the study cohort, 326 were diagnosed with TB and 787 with other respiratory diseases, from whom we randomly selected 1005 participants. Using Luminex technology, we measured the levels of 20 host biomarkers in serum samples which we used to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of previously identified and novel bio-signatures. Our previously identified seven-marker bio-signature did not perform well (sensitivity: 89%, specificity: 60%). We also identified an optimal, two-marker bio-signature with a sensitivity of 94% and specificity of 69% in patients with no history of previous TB. This signature performed slightly better than C-reactive protein (CRP) alone. The cut-off value for a positive diagnosis differed for human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV)-positive and -negative individuals. Notably, we also found that no signature was able to diagnose TB adequately in patients with a prior history of the disease. We have identified a two-marker, pan-African bio-signature which is more robust than CRP alone and meets the World Health Organization (WHO) target product profile requirements for a triage test in both HIV-negative and HIV-positive individuals. This signature could be incorporated into a point-of-care device, greatly reducing the necessity for expensive confirmatory diagnostics and potentially reducing the number of cases currently lost to follow-up. It might also potentially be useful with individuals unable to provide sputum or with paucibacillary disease. We suggest that the performance of TB diagnostic signatures can be improved by incorporating the HIV-status of the patient. We further suggest that only patients who have never had TB be subjected to a triage test and that those with a history of previous TB be evaluated using more direct diagnostic techniques.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.607827DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7952865PMC
February 2021

Visualizing the dynamics of tuberculosis pathology using molecular imaging.

J Clin Invest 2021 Mar;131(5)

Center for Infection and Inflammation Imaging Research.

Nearly 140 years after Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, tuberculosis (TB) remains a global threat and a deadly human pathogen. M. tuberculosis is notable for complex host-pathogen interactions that lead to poorly understood disease states ranging from latent infection to active disease. Additionally, multiple pathologies with a distinct local milieu (bacterial burden, antibiotic exposure, and host response) can coexist simultaneously within the same subject and change independently over time. Current tools cannot optimally measure these distinct pathologies or the spatiotemporal changes. Next-generation molecular imaging affords unparalleled opportunities to visualize infection by providing holistic, 3D spatial characterization and noninvasive, temporal monitoring within the same subject. This rapidly evolving technology could powerfully augment TB research by advancing fundamental knowledge and accelerating the development of novel diagnostics, biomarkers, and therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI145107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7919721PMC
March 2021

The Peripheral Blood Transcriptome Is Correlated With PET Measures of Lung Inflammation During Successful Tuberculosis Treatment.

Front Immunol 2020 10;11:596173. Epub 2021 Feb 10.

Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) is characterized by lung granulomas, inflammation and tissue destruction. Here we used within-subject peripheral blood gene expression over time to correlate with the within-subject lung metabolic activity, as measured by positron emission tomography (PET) to identify biological processes and pathways underlying overall resolution of lung inflammation. We used next-generation RNA sequencing and [F]FDG PET-CT data, collected at diagnosis, week 4, and week 24, from 75 successfully cured PTB patients, with the [F]FDG activity as a surrogate for lung inflammation. Our linear mixed-effects models required that for each individual the slope of the line of [F]FDG data in the outcome and the slope of the peripheral blood transcript expression data correlate, i.e., the slopes of the outcome and explanatory variables had to be similar. Of 10,295 genes that changed as a function of time, we identified 639 genes whose expression profiles correlated with decreasing [F]FDG uptake levels in the lungs. Gene enrichment over-representation analysis revealed that numerous biological processes were significantly enriched in the 639 genes, including several well known in TB transcriptomics such as platelet degranulation and response to interferon gamma, thus validating our novel approach. Others not previously associated with TB pathobiology included smooth muscle contraction, a set of pathways related to mitochondrial function and cell death, as well as a set of pathways connecting transcription, translation and vesicle formation. We observed up-regulation in genes associated with B cells, and down-regulation in genes associated with platelet activation. We found 254 transcription factor binding sites to be enriched among the 639 gene promoters. In conclusion, we demonstrated that of the 10,295 gene expression changes in peripheral blood, only a subset of 639 genes correlated with inflammation in the lungs, and the enriched pathways provide a description of the biology of resolution of lung inflammation as detectable in peripheral blood. Surprisingly, resolution of PTB inflammation is positively correlated with smooth muscle contraction and, extending our previous observation on mitochondrial genes, shows the presence of mitochondrial stress. We focused on pathway analysis which can enable therapeutic target discovery and potential modulation of the host response to TB.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.596173DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7902901PMC
February 2021

Higher SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in workers with lower socioeconomic status in Cape Town, South Africa.

PLoS One 2021 25;16(2):e0247852. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Department of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: Inequality is rife throughout South Africa. The first wave of COVID-19 may have affected people in lower socioeconomic groups worse than the affluent. The SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and the specificity of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests in South Africa is not known.

Methods: We tested 405 volunteers representing all socioeconomic strata from the workforce of a popular shopping and tourist complex in central Cape Town with the Abbott SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay. We assessed the association between antibody positivity and COVID-19 symptom status, medical history, and sociodemographic variables. We tested 137 serum samples from healthy controls collected in Cape Town prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, to confirm the specificity of the assay in the local population.

Results: Of the 405 volunteers tested one month after the first peak of the epidemic in Cape Town, 96(23.7%) were SARS-CoV-2 IgG positive. Of those who tested positive, 46(47.9%) reported no symptoms of COVID-19 in the previous 6 months. Seropositivity was significantly associated with living in informal housing, residing in a subdistrict with low income-per household, and having a low-earning occupation. The specificity of the assay was 98.54%(95%CI 94.82%-99.82%) in the pre-COVID controls.

Conclusions: There is a high background seroprevalence in Cape Town, particularly in people of lower socioeconomic status. Almost half of cases are asymptomatic, and therefore undiagnosed by local testing strategies. These results cannot be explained by low assay specificity.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247852PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906413PMC
March 2021

T cell-tropic HIV efficiently infects alveolar macrophages through contact with infected CD4+ T cells.

Sci Rep 2021 Feb 16;11(1):3890. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are critical for defense against airborne pathogens and AM dysfunction is thought to contribute to the increased burden of pulmonary infections observed in individuals living with HIV-1 (HIV). While HIV nucleic acids have been detected in AMs early in infection, circulating HIV during acute and chronic infection is usually CCR5 T cell-tropic (T-tropic) and enters macrophages inefficiently in vitro. The mechanism by which T-tropic viruses infect AMs remains unknown. We collected AMs by bronchoscopy performed in HIV-infected, antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive and uninfected subjects. We found that viral constructs made with primary HIV envelope sequences isolated from both AMs and plasma were T-tropic and inefficiently infected macrophages. However, these isolates productively infected macrophages when co-cultured with HIV-infected CD4+ T cells. In addition, we provide evidence that T-tropic HIV is transmitted from infected CD4+ T cells to the AM cytosol. We conclude that AM-derived HIV isolates are T-tropic and can enter macrophages through contact with an infected CD4+ T cell, which results in productive infection of AMs. CD4+ T cell-dependent entry of HIV into AMs helps explain the presence of HIV in AMs despite inefficient cell-free infection, and may contribute to AM dysfunction in people living with HIV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82066-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7886866PMC
February 2021

Fourteen-day PET/CT imaging to monitor drug combination activity in treated individuals with tuberculosis.

Sci Transl Med 2021 Feb;13(579)

Tuberculosis Research Section, Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

Early bactericidal activity studies monitor daily sputum bacterial counts in individuals with tuberculosis (TB) for 14 days during experimental drug treatment. The rate of change in sputum bacterial load over time provides an informative, but imperfect, estimate of drug activity and is considered a critical step in development of new TB drugs. In this clinical study, 160 participants with TB received isoniazid, pyrazinamide, or rifampicin, components of first-line chemotherapy, and moxifloxacin individually and in combination. In addition to standard bacterial enumeration in sputum, participants underwent 2-deoxy-2-[F]fluoro-d-glucose positron emission tomography and computerized tomography ([F]FDG-PET/CT) at the beginning and end of the 14-day drug treatment. Quantitating radiological responses to drug treatment provided comparative single and combination drug activity measures across lung lesion types that correlated more closely with established clinical outcomes when combined with sputum enumeration compared to sputum enumeration alone. Rifampicin and rifampicin-containing drug combinations were most effective in reducing both lung lesion volume measured by CT imaging and lesion-associated inflammation measured by PET imaging. Moxifloxacin was not superior to rifampicin in any measure by PET/CT imaging, consistent with its performance in recent phase 3 clinical trials. PET/CT imaging revealed synergy between isoniazid and pyrazinamide and demonstrated that the activity of pyrazinamide was limited to lung lesion, showing the highest FDG uptake during the first 2 weeks of drug treatment. [F]FDG-PET/CT imaging may be useful for measuring the activity of single drugs and drug combinations during evaluation of potential new TB drug regimens before phase 3 trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abd7618DOI Listing
February 2021

Biomarker-guided tuberculosis preventive therapy (CORTIS): a randomised controlled trial.

Lancet Infect Dis 2021 03 25;21(3):354-365. Epub 2021 Jan 25.

South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: Targeted preventive therapy for individuals at highest risk of incident tuberculosis might impact the epidemic by interrupting transmission. We tested performance of a transcriptomic signature of tuberculosis (RISK11) and efficacy of signature-guided preventive therapy in parallel, using a hybrid three-group study design.

Methods: Adult volunteers aged 18-59 years were recruited at five geographically distinct communities in South Africa. Whole blood was sampled for RISK11 by quantitative RT-PCR assay from eligible volunteers without HIV, recent previous tuberculosis (ie, <3 years before screening), or comorbidities at screening. RISK11-positive participants were block randomised (1:2; block size 15) to once-weekly, directly-observed, open-label isoniazid and rifapentine for 12 weeks (ie, RISK11 positive and 3HP positive), or no treatment (ie, RISK11 positive and 3HP negative). A subset of eligible RISK11-negative volunteers were randomly assigned to no treatment (ie, RISK11 negative and 3HP negative). Diagnostic discrimination of prevalent tuberculosis was tested in all participants at baseline. Thereafter, prognostic discrimination of incident tuberculosis was tested in the untreated RISK11-positive versus RISK11-negative groups, and treatment efficacy in the 3HP-treated versus untreated RISK11-positive groups, during active surveillance through 15 months. The primary endpoint was microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis. The primary outcome measures were risk ratio [RR] for tuberculosis of RISK11-positive to RISK11-negative participants, and treatment efficacy. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02735590.

Findings: 20 207 volunteers were screened, and 2923 participants were enrolled, including RISK11-positive participants randomly assigned to 3HP (n=375) or no 3HP (n=764), and 1784 RISK11-negative participants. Cumulative probability of prevalent or incident tuberculosis disease was 0·066 (95% CI 0·049 to 0·084) in RISK11-positive (3HP negative) participants and 0·018 (0·011 to 0·025) in RISK11-negative participants (RR 3·69, 95% CI 2·25-6·05) over 15 months. Tuberculosis prevalence was 47 (4·1%) of 1139 versus 14 (0·78%) of 1984 in RISK11-positive compared with RISK11-negative participants, respectively (diagnostic RR 5·13, 95% CI 2·93 to 9·43). Tuberculosis incidence over 15 months was 2·09 (95% CI 0·97 to 3·19) vs 0·80 (0·30 to 1·30) per 100 person years in RISK11-positive (3HP-negative) participants compared with RISK11-negative participants (cumulative incidence ratio 2·6, 95% CI 1·2 to 5·9). Serious adverse events related to 3HP included one hospitalisation for seizures (unintentional isoniazid overdose) and one death of unknown cause (possibly temporally related). Tuberculosis incidence over 15 months was 1·94 (95% CI 0·35 to 3·50) versus 2·09 (95% CI 0·97 to 3·19) per 100 person-years in 3HP-treated RISK11-positive participants compared with untreated RISK11-positive participants (efficacy 7·0%, 95% CI -145 to 65).

Interpretation: The RISK11 signature discriminated between individuals with prevalent tuberculosis, or progression to incident tuberculosis, and individuals who remained healthy, but provision of 3HP to signature-positive individuals after exclusion of baseline disease did not reduce progression to tuberculosis over 15 months.

Funding: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, South African Medical Research Council.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30914-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7907670PMC
March 2021

Has the bubble burst for transcriptomics in tuberculosis diagnosis?

Authors:
Gerhard Walzl

Lancet Infect Dis 2021 03 25;21(3):301-302. Epub 2021 Jan 25.

Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation, Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research and South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town 7505, South Africa. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30993-2DOI Listing
March 2021

Safety and immunogenicity of the adjunct therapeutic vaccine ID93 + GLA-SE in adults who have completed treatment for tuberculosis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2a trial.

Lancet Respir Med 2021 04 8;9(4):373-386. Epub 2020 Dec 8.

South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), Institute of Infectious Disease & Molecular Medicine and Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: A therapeutic vaccine that prevents recurrent tuberculosis would be a major advance in the development of shorter treatment regimens. We aimed to assess the safety and immunogenicity of the ID93 + GLA-SE vaccine at various doses and injection schedules in patients with previously treated tuberculosis.

Methods: This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2a trial was conducted at three clinical sites near Cape Town, South Africa. Patients were recruited at local clinics after receiving 4 months of tuberculosis treatment, and screened for eligibility after providing written informed consent. Participants were aged 18-60 years, BCG-vaccinated, HIV-uninfected, and diagnosed with drug-sensitive pulmonary tuberculosis. Eligible patients had completed standard treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis in the past 28 days. Participants were enrolled after completing standard treatment and randomly assigned sequentially to receive vaccine or placebo in three cohorts: 2 μg intramuscular ID93 + 2 μg GLA-SE on days 0 and 56 (cohort 1); 10 μg ID93 + 2 μg GLA-SE on days 0 and 56 (cohort 2); 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE on days 0 and 56 and placebo on day 28 (cohort 3); 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE on days 0, 28, and 56 (cohort 3); or placebo on days 0 and 56 (cohorts 1 and 2), with the placebo group for cohort 3 receiving an additional injection on day 28. Randomisation was in a ratio of 3:1 for ID93 + GLA-SE and saline placebo in cohorts 1 and 2, and in a ratio of 3:3:1 for (2 ×) ID93 + GLA-SE, (3 ×) ID93 + GLA-SE, and placebo in cohort 3. The primary outcomes were safety and immunogenicity (vaccine-specific antibody response and T-cell response). For the safety outcome, participants were observed for 30 min after each injection, injection site reactions and systemic adverse events were monitored until day 84, and serious adverse events and adverse events of special interest were monitored for 6 months after the last injection. Vaccine-specific antibody responses were measured by serum ELISA, and T-cell responses after stimulation with vaccine antigens were measured in cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells specimens using intracellular cytokine staining followed by flow cytometry. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02465216.

Findings: Between June 17, 2015, and May 30, 2016, we assessed 177 patients for inclusion. 61 eligible patients were randomly assigned to receive: saline placebo (n=5) or (2 ×) 2 μg ID93 + 2 μg GLA-SE (n=15) on days 0 and 56 (cohort 1); saline placebo (n=2) or (2 ×) 10 μg ID93 + 2 μg GLA-SE (n=5) on days 0 and 56 (cohort 2); saline placebo (n=5) on days 0, 28 and 56, or 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE (n=15) on days 0 and 56 and placebo injection on day 28, or (3 ×) 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE (n=14) on days 0, 28, and 56 (cohort 3). ID93 + GLA-SE induced robust and durable antibody responses and specific, polyfunctional CD4 T-cell responses to vaccine antigens. Two injections of the 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE dose induced antigen-specific IgG and CD4 T-cell responses that were significantly higher than those with placebo and persisted for the 6-month study duration. Mild to moderate injection site pain was reported after vaccination across all dose combinations, and induration and erythema in patients given 2 μg ID93 + 5 μg GLA-SE in two or three doses. One participant had grade 3 erythema and induration at the injection site. No vaccine-related serious adverse events were observed.

Interpretation: Vaccination with ID93 + GLA-SE was safe and immunogenic for all tested regimens. These data support further evaluation of ID93 + GLA-SE in therapeutic vaccination strategies to improve tuberculosis treatment outcomes.

Funding: Wellcome Trust (102028/Z/13/Z).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30319-2DOI Listing
April 2021

GPR183 Regulates Interferons, Autophagy, and Bacterial Growth During Infection and Is Associated With TB Disease Severity.

Front Immunol 2020 6;11:601534. Epub 2020 Nov 6.

Translational Research Institute-Mater Research Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Oxidized cholesterols have emerged as important signaling molecules of immune function, but little is known about the role of these oxysterols during mycobacterial infections. We found that expression of the oxysterol-receptor GPR183 was reduced in blood from patients with tuberculosis (TB) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) compared to TB patients without T2D and was associated with TB disease severity on chest x-ray. GPR183 activation by 7,25-dihydroxycholesterol (7,25-OHC) reduced growth of (Mtb) and BCG in primary human monocytes, an effect abrogated by the GPR183 antagonist GSK682753. Growth inhibition was associated with reduced IFN-β and IL-10 expression and enhanced autophagy. Mice lacking GPR183 had significantly increased lung Mtb burden and dysregulated IFNs during early infection. Together, our data demonstrate that GPR183 is an important regulator of intracellular mycobacterial growth and interferons during mycobacterial infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.601534DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7677584PMC
November 2020

Serum cytokine levels associated with myocardial injury in systemic lupus erythematosus.

Rheumatology (Oxford) 2021 Apr;60(4):2010-2021

Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.

Objectives: To identify cytokines, markers of endothelial activation [soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1)] and myocyte strain [soluble ST2 (sST2)] associated with myocardial injury (MInj) in SLE, classified by cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) criteria.

Methods: CMR was performed on patients with SLE, identifying stages of MInj (inflammation and necrosis or fibrosis). Data captured included: clinical assessment, laboratory and serological analyses, cytokine (IL-1β, IL-1Ra, IL-2, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17, IL-18, TNF-alpha), sVCAM-1 and sST2 levels. Cytokines were compared with regard to SLE features and evidence of CMR MInj. Predictors of CMR MInj were determined through regression analyses.

Results: Forty-one patients with high disease activity (SLEDAI-2K: 13; IQR: 3-17) were included. SLE features included: LN (n = 12), neurolupus (n = 6) and clinical lupus myocarditis (LM) (n = 6). Nineteen patients had CMR evidence of MInj. Patients with a SLEDAI-2K ≥ 12 had higher sVCAM-1 (P = 0.010) and sST2 (P = 0.032) levels. Neurolupus was associated with higher IL-1Ra (P = 0.038) and LN with lower IL-1Ra (P = 0.025) and sVCAM-1 (P = 0.036) levels. Higher IL-1Ra (P = 0.012), IL-17 (P = 0.045), IL-18 (P = 0.003), and sVCAM-1 (P = 0.062) levels were observed in patients with CMR MInj compared with those without. On multivariable logistic regression, IL-1Ra predicted CMR inflammation and fibrosis/necrosis (P < 0.005) while anti-Ro/SSA [odds ratio (OR): 1.197; P = 0.035] and the SLE damage index (OR: 4.064; P = 0.011) predicted fibrosis/necrosis.

Conclusion: This is a novel description of associations between cytokines and SLE MInj. IL-18 and IL-1Ra were significantly higher in patients with MInj. IL-1Ra independently predicted different stages of CMR MInj. Exploration of the role of these cytokines in the pathogenesis of SLE MInj may promote targeted therapies for LM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/keaa540DOI Listing
April 2021

Monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells reflect tuberculosis severity and are influenced by cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors.

J Leukoc Biol 2020 Nov 6. Epub 2020 Nov 6.

Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) increase in tuberculosis (TB) and may be targets for host-directed therapy (HDT). In this study, we use flow cytometry to analyze the effects of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (COX-2i) on monocytic (M)-MDSCs in blood from TB patients attending a clinical trial of COX-2i. The effects of COX-2i on M-MDSCs and mycobacterial uptake were also studied by an in vitro mycobacterial infection model. We found that M-MDSC frequencies correlated with TB disease severity. Reduced M-MDSC (P = 0.05) and IDO (P = 0.03) expression was observed in the COX-2i group. We show that peripheral blood-derived M-MDSCs successfully internalized Mycobacterium bovis and that in vitro mycobacterial infection increased COX-2 (P = 0.002), PD-L1 (P = 0.01), and Arginase-1 (P = 0.002) expression in M-MDSCs. Soluble IL-1β, IL-10, and S100A9 were reduced in COX-2i-treated M-MDSCs cultures (P < 0.05). We show novel data that COX-2i had limited effect in vivo but reduced M-MDSC cytokine production in vitro. The relevance of COX-2i in a HDT strategy needs to be further explored.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/JLB.4A0720-409RRDOI Listing
November 2020

Screening diabetes mellitus patients for pulmonary tuberculosis: a multisite study in Indonesia, Peru, Romania and South Africa.

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 2020 Oct 28. Epub 2020 Oct 28.

Centre for International Health, University of Otago Medical School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Background: Diabetes mellitus (DM) patients are three times more likely to develop tuberculosis (TB) than the general population. Active TB screening in people with DM is part of a bidirectional approach. The aim of this study was to conduct pragmatic active TB screening among DM patients in four countries to inform policy.

Methods: DM patients were recruited in Indonesia (n=809), Peru (n=600), Romania (n=603) and South Africa (n=51). TB cases were diagnosed using an algorithm including clinical symptoms and chest X-ray. Presumptive TB patients were examined with sputum smear and culture.

Results: A total of 171 (8.3%) individuals reported ever having had TB (South Africa, 26%; Indonesia, 12%; Peru, 7%; Romania, 4%), 15 of whom were already on TB treatment. Overall, 14 (0.73% [95% confidence interval 0.40 to 1.23]) TB cases were identified from screening. Poor glucose control, smoking, lower body mass index, education and socio-economic status were associated with newly diagnosed/current TB. Thirteen of the 14 TB cases diagnosed from this screening would have been found using a symptom-based approach.

Conclusions: These data support the World Health Organization recommendation for routine symptom-based screening for TB in known DM patients in high TB-burden countries. DM patients with any symptoms consistent with TB should be investigated and diagnostic tools should be easily accessible.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/trstmh/traa100DOI Listing
October 2020

Tuberculous Meningitis: Pathogenesis, Immune Responses, Diagnostic Challenges, and the Potential of Biomarker-Based Approaches.

J Clin Microbiol 2021 Feb 18;59(3). Epub 2021 Feb 18.

DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is the most devastating form of tuberculosis (TB), causing high mortality or disability. Clinical management of the disease is challenging due to limitations of the existing diagnostic approaches. Our knowledge on the immunology and pathogenesis of the disease is currently limited. More research is urgently needed to enhance our understanding of the immunopathogenesis of the disease and guide us toward the identification of targets that may be useful for vaccines or host-directed therapeutics. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the immunology and pathogenesis of TBM and summarize the literature on existing and new, especially biomarker-based, approaches that may be useful in the management of TBM. We identify research gaps and provide directions for research which may lead to the development of new tools for the control of the disease in the near future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.01771-20DOI Listing
February 2021

Immune profiling enables stratification of patients with active TB disease or M. tuberculosis infection.

Clin Infect Dis 2020 Oct 16. Epub 2020 Oct 16.

Insitro, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Background: Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection and is a major public health problem. Clinical challenges include the lack of a blood-based test for active disease. Current blood-based tests, such as QuantiFERON (QFT) do not distinguish active TB disease from asymptomatic Mtb infection.

Methods: We hypothesized that TruCulture, an immunomonitoring method for whole blood stimulation, could discriminate active disease from latent Mtb infection (LTBI). We stimulated whole blood from active TB patients and compared to LTBI donors. Mtb- specific antigens and live bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) were used as stimuli, with direct comparison to QFT. Protein analyses were performed using conventional and digital ELISA, as well as Luminex.

Results: TruCulture showed discrimination of active TB cases from LTBI (p < 0.0001 AUC = 0.81) as compared to QFT (p = 0.45 AUC = 0.56), based on an IFNγ readout after Mtb antigen stimulation. This result was replicated in an independent cohort (AUC = 0.89). In exploratory analyses, TB stratification could be further improved by the Mtb Ag/BCG IFNγ ratio (p < 0.0001 AUC = 0.91). Finally, the combination of digital ELISA and transcriptional analysis showed that LTBI donors with high IFNγ clustered with TB patients, suggesting the possibility to identify sub-clinical disease.

Conclusions: TruCulture offers a next-generation solution for whole blood stimulation and immunomonitoring with the possibility to discriminate active and latent infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1562DOI Listing
October 2020

An observational study identifying highly tuberculosis-exposed, HIV-1-positive but persistently TB, tuberculin and IGRA negative persons with M. tuberculosis specific antibodies in Cape Town, South Africa.

EBioMedicine 2020 Nov 7;61:103053. Epub 2020 Oct 7.

DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research; South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research; Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is inferred from positive results of T-cell immune conversion assays measuring Mtb-specific interferon gamma production or tuberculin skin test (TST) reactivity. Certain exposed individuals do not display T-cell immune conversion in these assays and do not develop TB. Here we report a hitherto unknown form of this phenotype: HIV-1-positive persistently TB, tuberculin and IGRA negative (HITTIN).

Methods: A community-based case-control design was used to systematically screen and identify adults living with HIV (HIV+), aged 35-60 years, who met stringent study criteria, and then longitudinally followed up for repeat IGRA and TST testing. Participants had no history of TB despite living in TB hyper-endemic environments in Cape Town, South Africa with a provincial incidence of 681/100,000. Mtb-specific antibodies were measured using ELISA and Luminex.

Findings: We identified 48/286 (17%) individuals who tested persistently negative for Mtb-specific T-cell immunoreactivity (three negative Quantiferon results and one TST = 0mm) over 206±154 days on average. Of these, 97·2% had documented CD4 counts<200 prior to antiretroviral therapy (ART). They had received ART for 7·0±3·0 years with a latest CD4 count of 505·8±191·4 cells/mm. All HITTIN sent for further antibody testing (n=38) displayed  Mtb-specific antibody titres.

Interpretation: Immune reconstituted HIV+ persons can be persistently non-immunoreactive to TST and interferon-γ T-cell responses to Mtb, yet develop species-specific antibody responses. Exposure is evidenced by Mtb-specific antibody titres. Our identification of HIV+ individuals displaying a persisting lack of response to TST and IGRA T-cell immune conversion paves the way for future studies to investigate this phenotype in the context of HIV-infection that so far have received only scant attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103053DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7648124PMC
November 2020

Investigating Non-sterilizing Cure in TB Patients at the End of Successful Anti-TB Therapy.

Front Cell Infect Microbiol 2020 25;10:443. Epub 2020 Aug 25.

Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation, Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research and South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Cape Town, South Africa.

(Mtb) is extremely recalcitrant to antimicrobial chemotherapy requiring 6 months to treat drug-sensitive tuberculosis (TB). Despite this, 4-10% of cured patients will develop recurrent disease within 12 months after completing therapy. Reasons for relapse in cured TB patients remains speculative, attributed to both pathogen and host factors. Populations of dormant bacilli are hypothesized to cause relapse in initially cured TB patients however, development of tests to convincingly demonstrate their presence at the end of anti-TB treatment has been challenging. Previous studies have indicated the utility of culture filtrate supplemented media (CFSM) to detect differentially culturable tubercle bacilli (DCTB). Here, we show that 3/22 of clinically cured patients retained DCTB in induced sputum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), with one DCTB positive patient relapsing within the first year of completing therapy. We also show a correlation of DCTB status with "unresolved" end of treatment FDG PET-CT imaging. Additionally, 19 end of treatment induced sputum samples from patients not undergoing bronchoscopy were assessed for DCTB, identifying a further relapse case with DCTB. We further show that induced sputum is a less reliable source for the DCTB assay at the end of treatment, limiting the utility of this assay in a clinical setting. We next investigated the host proteome at the site of disease (BALF) using multiplexed proteomic analysis and compared these to active TB cases to identify host-specific factors indicative of cure. Distinct signatures stratified active from cured TB patients into distinct groups, with a DCTB positive, subsequently relapsing, end of treatment patient showing a proteomic signature closer to active TB disease than cure. This exploratory study offers evidence of live Mtb, undetectable with conventional culture methods, at the end of clinically successful treatment and putative host protein biomarkers of active disease and cure. These findings have implications for the assessment of true sterilizing cure in TB patients and opens new avenues for targeted approaches to monitor treatment response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00443DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7477326PMC
August 2020

Biosignatures: The answer to Tuberculosis diagnosis in children?

EBioMedicine 2020 Oct 22;60:102977. Epub 2020 Sep 22.

DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research and South African Medical Research Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.102977DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7506336PMC
October 2020

Host urine immunological biomarkers as potential candidates for the diagnosis of tuberculosis.

Int J Infect Dis 2020 Oct 12;99:473-481. Epub 2020 Aug 12.

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, P.O. Box 241, Cape Town 8000, South Africa. Electronic address:

Objective: To investigate the potential of host urinary biomarkers as diagnostic candidates for tuberculosis (TB).

Methods: Adults self-presenting with symptoms requiring further investigation for TB were enrolled in Cape Town, South Africa. Participants were later classified as having TB or other respiratory diseases (ORD) using results from TB confirmatory tests. The concentrations of 29 analytes were evaluated in urine samples from participants using the Luminex platform, and their diagnostic potential was assessed using standard statistical approaches.

Results: Of the 151 study participants, 34 (22.5%) were diagnosed with TB and 26 (17.2%) were HIV-positive. Seven biomarkers showed potential as TB diagnostic candidates, with accuracy improving (in HIV-positives) when stratified according to HIV status (area under the receiver operating characteristics curve; AUC ≥0.80). In HIV-positive participants, a four-marker biosignature (sIL6R, MMP-9, IL-2Ra, IFN-γ) diagnosed TB with AUC of 0.96, sensitivity of 85.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) 42.1-99.6%), and specificity of 94.7% (95% CI 74.0-99.9%). In HIV-negatives, the most promising was a two-marker biosignature (sIL6R and sIL-2Ra), which diagnosed TB with AUC of 0.76, sensitivity of 53.9% (95% CI 33.4-73.4%), and specificity of 79.6% (95% CI 70.3-87.1%).

Conclusions: Urinary host inflammatory biomarkers possess TB diagnostic potential but may be influenced by HIV infection. The results of this study require validation in larger studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2020.08.019DOI Listing
October 2020

Evaluation of Potential Antigen-specific Host Biomarkers in QuantiFERON Supernatants as Candidates for the Diagnosis of Ocular Tuberculosis.

Ocul Immunol Inflamm 2020 Jul 7:1-9. Epub 2020 Jul 7.

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research, Stellenbosch University , Cape Town, South Africa.

Purpose: To evaluate potential host biomarkers detectable in QuantiFERON supernatants as diagnostic candidates for ocular tuberculosis (OTB).

Methods: We investigated 47 host markers in QuantiFERON supernatants from 92 individuals with uveitis using the Luminex platform. We evaluated the potential of individual and combined biomarkers to distinguish between patients with possible, probable, and no OTB.

Results: Differences were observed in median concentrations of several biomarkers including IL-13, IFN-γ, IFN-α2, and IL-1β, in individuals with OTB versus no OTB regardless of HIV status. Individuals with probable and possible OTB only differed regarding GM-CSF. We identified a four-marker biosignature (CD40 L, IL-33, IFN-γ, and SAP) which diagnosed OTB with an area under the ROC curve of 0.80, sensitivity = 56.3% and specificity = 90.0%.

Conclusion: This represents the first attempt at screening QuantiFERON supernatants for biomarkers to diagnose OTB. We identified candidate biosignatures which may aid in diagnosing OTB in both HIV positive and negative patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09273948.2020.1763404DOI Listing
July 2020

Impact of Intermediate Hyperglycemia and Diabetes on Immune Dysfunction in Tuberculosis.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 01;72(1):69-78

Tuberculosis Centre and Department of Infection and Biology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.

Background: People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing active tuberculosis (TB) and are more likely to have poor TB-treatment outcomes, which may impact on control of TB as the prevalence of diabetes is increasing worldwide. Blood transcriptomes are altered in patients with active TB relative to healthy individuals. The effects of diabetes and intermediate hyperglycemia (IH) on this transcriptomic signature were investigated to enhance understanding of immunological susceptibility in diabetes-TB comorbidity.

Methods: Whole blood samples were collected from active TB patients with diabetes (glycated hemoglobin [HbA1c] ≥6.5%) or IH (HbA1c = 5.7% to <6.5%), TB-only patients, and healthy controls in 4 countries: South Africa, Romania, Indonesia, and Peru. Differential blood gene expression was determined by RNA-seq (n = 249).

Results: Diabetes increased the magnitude of gene expression change in the host transcriptome in TB, notably showing an increase in genes associated with innate inflammatory and decrease in adaptive immune responses. Strikingly, patients with IH and TB exhibited blood transcriptomes much more similar to patients with diabetes-TB than to patients with only TB. Both diabetes-TB and IH-TB patients had a decreased type I interferon response relative to TB-only patients.

Conclusions: Comorbidity in individuals with both TB and diabetes is associated with altered transcriptomes, with an expected enhanced inflammation in the presence of both conditions, but also reduced type I interferon responses in comorbid patients, suggesting an unexpected uncoupling of the TB transcriptome phenotype. These immunological dysfunctions are also present in individuals with IH, showing that altered immunity to TB may also be present in this group. The TB disease outcomes in individuals with IH diagnosed with TB should be investigated further.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa751DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7823074PMC
January 2021

RISK6, a 6-gene transcriptomic signature of TB disease risk, diagnosis and treatment response.

Sci Rep 2020 05 25;10(1):8629. Epub 2020 May 25.

South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Improved tuberculosis diagnostics and tools for monitoring treatment response are urgently needed. We developed a robust and simple, PCR-based host-blood transcriptomic signature, RISK6, for multiple applications: identifying individuals at risk of incident disease, as a screening test for subclinical or clinical tuberculosis, and for monitoring tuberculosis treatment. RISK6 utility was validated by blind prediction using quantitative real-time (qRT) PCR in seven independent cohorts. Prognostic performance significantly exceeded that of previous signatures discovered in the same cohort. Performance for diagnosing subclinical and clinical disease in HIV-uninfected and HIV-infected persons, assessed by area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve, exceeded 85%. As a screening test for tuberculosis, the sensitivity at 90% specificity met or approached the benchmarks set out in World Health Organization target product profiles for non-sputum-based tests. RISK6 scores correlated with lung immunopathology activity, measured by positron emission tomography, and tracked treatment response, demonstrating utility as treatment response biomarker, while predicting treatment failure prior to treatment initiation. Performance of the test in capillary blood samples collected by finger-prick was noninferior to venous blood collected in PAXgene tubes. These results support incorporation of RISK6 into rapid, capillary blood-based point-of-care PCR devices for prospective assessment in field studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65043-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7248089PMC
May 2020

Therapies for tuberculosis and AIDS: myeloid-derived suppressor cells in focus.

J Clin Invest 2020 06;130(6):2789-2799

Centre for Tuberculosis Research, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa.

The critical role of suppressive myeloid cells in immune regulation has come to the forefront in cancer research, with myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) as a main oncology immunotherapeutic target. Recent improvement and standardization of criteria classifying tumor-induced MDSCs have led to unified descriptions and also promoted MDSC research in tuberculosis (TB) and AIDS. Despite convincing evidence on the induction of MDSCs by pathogen-derived molecules and inflammatory mediators in TB and AIDS, very little attention has been given to their therapeutic modulation or roles in vaccination in these diseases. Clinical manifestations in TB are consequences of complex host-pathogen interactions and are substantially affected by HIV infection. Here we summarize the current understanding and knowledge gaps regarding the role of MDSCs in HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (co)infections. We discuss key scientific priorities to enable application of this knowledge to the development of novel strategies to improve vaccine efficacy and/or implementation of enhanced treatment approaches. Building on recent findings and potential for cross-fertilization between oncology and infection biology, we highlight current challenges and untapped opportunities for translating new advances in MDSC research into clinical applications for TB and AIDS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI136288DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7260010PMC
June 2020